Three months ago I wrote on here about the artistic and musical legacy of Michael Jackson. This only hinted at one of the more difficult aspect of MJ’s twin legacy to resolve: was the price of his talent and extreme fame simply too much for his psychological type? On the surface the answer would seem to be an easy yes. Most child performers grow up surrounded by different degrees of musical stimulation. But Michael Jackson was groomed to take music seriously before he was even riding a bicycle. Taking music seriously,even in preteen years is fine. But the randomness and spontaneity most children have is an important step in the process of human growth. Referring yourself as a hardened performer who’d already paid their share of dues by the age of 12,as was the case with Michael,just isn’t conducive to that growth process. After what would’ve been his 55’th birthday, I’ve decided to dig deep to contemplate possibilities that led to…well the reasons why MJ isn’t still with us today.
Bobby Taylor,the man who bought the Jackson 5 to Motown and helped launch their career,likely said it best to Mike’s later in life claims that his childhood was sacrificed for a career. Taylor mused in the documentary The Life Of An Icon that from his observations of Michael playing basketball with his brothers and riding on his bicycle that he did in fact have a childhood. He continued to add that perhaps his later views on it were clouded by the fact that,when the intense pressures of adult face got to him,he strongly desired that childhood back and began to revert. I would also note that during his years on Motown,Michael Jackson was in his early teens. His actual childhood was basically over. So in essence that sense of play came too little,too late. Of course it should be taken into consideration that Joe Jackson’s…shall we say extreme form of discipline had a strong effect too. Though severely maligned over the years,Joe’s methods were intended mainly to harden his children to realities of the music world as he saw it. Though there’s little doubt he also thought of himself as living vicariously through the strong talents of his songs,especially Michael.
Nothing we haven’t heard right? Well another aspect of this legacy that’s also been written about may actually have some validity. It was heartbreaking for me in the late 90’s and early millennial years to see a man whose values of love and kindness helped shaped my own philosophies of life turn into essentially a circus sideshow: appearing with every manner of skeleton,oxygen chamber,chimpanzee and whatnot on tabloid newspapers,dangling his own child off windows and descending into the life of a prescription drug addict in his sad final years. The theory in question isn’t too complicated: Michael Jackson was disciplined by his father using switches and different beatings-often involving the head near the frontal lobe. Of course there was a “medical procedure” used to damage the frontal lobe in order to treat mental patients,known as trans-orbital lobotomy. Considering Michael’s unusual and erratic personality changes and behavior,including his self mutilation through surgery and descent into addiction,was the result of his father’s discipline having an intentionally lobotomizing effect on Michael’s psyche in addition to his own emotional insecurities.
Theories about based on Michael Jackson’s transformation into the most respected and renowned man in the music world to the poster child for the most hideous qualities of yellow journalism. Was he an eccentric or an epic proportions media troll? Was he an abused child or a child abuser? Was he an overly praised but mediocre talent? Or were his musical talents-like so many of the greats before him,a bit too left of center for most to comprehend properly. Personally I go with the latter theory in terms of his talent level. The one thing to be said about Michael Jackson was that he became an extreme individual. Extreme attention,extreme eccentricity,extreme saturation of adulation. Could be the simple fact the extreme reaction to his talent transformed him into the person he became. Still the “real” Michael Jackson probably speaks more through the picture you see above this article: a young man about to enter his second decade-still dealing with ghosts of his not too distant past as a musical youth prodigy and completely uncertain as to his future. It ended up a story about growing up and then growing back down again. And proof that sometimes,in the end,one picture can say a thousand words.